Argentina: Floods in Santa Fe Province Appeal No. 10/03


Launched on: 6 May 2003 for 3 months for CHF 607,000 to assist 8,000 beneficiaries. Operation extended to 31 October 2003.
Appeal coverage: 103.4%

Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) Allocated: CHF 50,000

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On 28 April of this year, after several days of intense rain, the province of Santa Fé, one of the richest in Argentina in terms of harvest and cattle, suffered a devastating flood when the Salato River broke its banks. Within just a few hours, one third of the capital city, Santa Fé, and a vast area of the province was flooded. Around 150,000 people were forced to leave their houses and properties. A total of 26,000 houses had to be abandoned, 2,000 of which were completely destroyed. A state of emergency was declared in 35 communities in the province. The capital city and the regions of General Obligado, Monte Vera, San Cristóbal, San Justo, San Javier, Garay, Las Colonias, General López and San Martín were the hardest hit areas in the province.

Several access roads and bridges in the province were impassable or were blocked by authorities for security reasons, slowing down early rescue efforts. In addition, electricity was cut off in some parts of the city and the surrounding areas for several days, which led to security problems and exacerbated an already serious situation.

Despite the fact that the Argentine Red Cross (ARC) branches of Santa Fé and San Cristóbal were among the first buildings to be flooded, volunteers organized themselves immediately, rescuing more than 2,000 people in the city of Santa Fé during the first hours of flooding. The ARC helped organize the rescue and relief effort from the outset, working closely with the Federation, local and national public institutions, UN agencies, and NGOs. In addition, the ARC participated in setting up an interagency emergency room in the local Ministry of Health.

Make-shift evacuation centres, most of which with precarious health and hygiene conditions, sprang up in the provincial capital and other smaller towns, accommodating several thousand people. General conditions in these centres slowly improved and, after 45 days, the number of beneficiaries settled at around 5,000 individuals in 68 evacuation centres, including 9 large centres. Most of the other displaced persons found accommodation with friends and relatives.

Public buildings, hospitals, schools, health centres, farms, factories and shops were also affected along with private houses. The huge losses in the farming and agricultural sectors were estimated at USD 850 million. The most affected areas were crops, cattle, milk production, and local infrastructure. It has been estimated that it will take several years for the provincial economy and infrastructure to recover.

The gravity of the situation prompted a major demonstration of solidarity across the country. Private citizens, businesses , and civil associations contributed to collect thousands of tonnes of food and non-food items for the flood victims. These donations primarily benefited less seriously affected communities and evacuation centres while the more serious areas were included in the Red Cross appeal.

The Red Cross launched an emergency appeal in response to the flooding on 6 May. The immediate objectives of the appeal were to bring relief assistance to 8,000 beneficiaries in the form of food and non-food items, to facilitate the return of evacuees to their homes, to promote sanitary conditions and to provide psycho-social assistance to victims. Psycho-social assistance and disaster prevention and preparedness were included in the training for volunteers working in the field.

During the development of the relief operation, the plan of ac tion was readjusted in order to meet the needs of the beneficiaries. For this reason, the appeal was extended until the end of October, however, purchasing and distribution of some relief items was delayed until the first week of November. No adjustments were made to the budget of the operation.


An assessment team made up of experts in disaster management, logistics, health and information, members of the Argentine Red Cross, the Federation's sub regional office based in Buenos Aires, the regional delegation, the Pan American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU) and the Spanish Red Cross, were mobilized in the area in order to assess damage and needs and to work on a plan of action. Two delegates from the Pan American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU), a disaster management delegate and a logistician from the regional logistics unit (RLU), supported the ARC operation in Santa Fé in the early stages of the disaster. The disaster management delegate was then replaced by a regional intervention team member from the Ecuadorian Red Cross who was responsible for provision of support to the ARC in the coordination of the operation in Santa Fé.

The ARC and the Federation ensured ongoing coordination with key partners involved in relief efforts, such as local institutions, the Ministry of Health, the Civil Defence, UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Objectives, achievements, impact

Almost all 77 ARC branches in the country participated in the relief operation by collecting donations for evacuees or sending volunteers to the field. More than 1,000 volunteers worked in Santa Fé, while around 5,000 were mobilized in other branches. The National Societies of Austria, Finland, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United States contributed to the appeal, together with the government of New Zealand, businesses, NGOs and private donors, while the German and Spanish Red Cross Societies and the government of the Netherlands made bilateral contributions.

Emergency relief (food and basic non-food items)

During the relief operations, ARC volunteers surveyed and assisted a total of 445 evacuation centres that were hosting around 75,000 evacuees. All those centres not included in the appeal benefited from public donations gathered by ARC branches throughout Argentina. These donations included clothes, shoes, mattresses, toys for children and candles, as well as food, medicine, water and hygiene products. In total, almost 3,000 tonnes of items were donated.

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